Constellations and Influences: Michelle Dorrance
January 18, 2013
n 2012 Danspace Project presented two historic Platforms, Parallels and Judson Now. In 2013 we continue to explore artistic constellations and lineages. What web of connections do new generations of artists trace? Who are their influences?
This season we will ask each artist to share a significant artistic influence. Below is Michelle Dorrance’s response.
This season at Danspace focuses on the question of influences, lineage, legacy – “the web of connections that new generations of artists trace with the past through their work” – and I would argue that no dancers call upon specific individual influences of so many of their masters and the forms innovators (our ancestors, if you will) more directly and more often than tap dancers. Their personalities and unique styles live deeply within most of us.
I have had the honor of studying with and spending time with a great number of our tap masters before they passed away: Maceo Anderson, Dr. Cholly Atkins, Clayton “Peg-Leg” Bates, Dr. James “Buster” Brown, Ernest “Brownie” Brown, Harriet “Quicksand” Browne, Gregory Hines, Dr. Jeni Legon, Dr. Henry LeTang, LeRoy Myers, Dr. Fayard and Harold Nicholas, Donald O’Connor, Dr. Leonard Reed, Jimmy Slyde and Dr. Prince Spencer. I would also like to honor our living masters whom I am constantly influenced by: Arthur Duncan, Dr. Bunny Briggs and Skip Cunningham – especially Dr. Harold “Stumpy” Cromer and the lovely Mable Lee who will both be attending this show (you just might be sitting next to one of them).
While we are exploring new ideas in this show, we are also constantly mindful of our rich history. Dr. Jimmy Slyde was the inspiration for my exploration of slide work in socks and his influence continues to guide this work. In order to tap dance on the gorgeous wood floor you see here in the church, we had to turn away from aluminum taps towards using different surfaces on the soles of our feet. Leather soles and wood taps pre-date aluminum taps as they were used in the late 1800s when the form was still called the “Buck and Wing”. There is a bit of a historical reference in some of the leather work we are doing, in that we explore the sounds of early tap dancing (imagine Bill “Bojangles” Robinson on the balls of his feet) before introducing the power of the rich bass in the heels. Tap master, John Bubbles, the game changer, is known for revolutionizing the tap dance in this way. The wood taps you will see/hear in the show were designed by DIY genius, Nicholas Young. They were produced by Nicholas, myself and life-saver, Ali Dietz, all by hand.
The premiere of Michelle Dorrance and Dorrance Dance/New York SOUNDspace runs January 17-19, 2013 at Danspace Project